Madison County Community Foundation's fundraiser hopes to attract first-time donors

Mar. 8—ANDERSON — Philanthropy, according to leaders at the Madison County Community Foundation, doesn't need to be confined to those with large bank accounts.

"I think there tends to be this misconception that only wealthy people do philanthropy, that giving back is for the rich," said the foundation's president, Ben Davis. "That's not the case at all."

One of the goals of the foundation's largest coordinated fundraising campaign in its 31-year history is to demonstrate the validity of that theory. The campaign features a mechanism that allows any donation to its Impact Madison fund to be tripled. A $1.5 million grant from Lilly Endowment, Inc. is making the match possible.

At a public workshop last month, Davis told a group of representatives of school districts and nonprofit groups throughout the county that, although the campaign's fundraising goal is at least $1 million, there will be other measures by which its success is judged.

"One measure of success will be having a lot of new, first-time donors giving to the Community Foundation," Davis said. "If there's an individual or a family or a company that really wants to start a legacy of philanthropy...the threshold to do that is suddenly lowered by two-thirds because every dollar that's contributed is going to be matched with two dollars."

MCCF grants are disbursed across a spectrum of nonprofit entities in sectors including the arts, health and human services, education and community well-being. The foundation's philanthropic efforts carry with them benefits that recipients believe will ripple forward for generations to come.

The Village Anderson, a nonprofit community hub that provides local youth with programming focused on character development, academic excellence and entrepreneurship, has received two grants from MCCF since its founding in 2020. The money has helped fund the organization's Rise and YouNique academies, 36-week programs for students in grades 6-12 that help develop critical thinking skills and responsible behavior habits.

"It costs money to make sure we feed them every week," said Louis Jackson III, founder and CEO of The Village. "Even for our rental spaces where we take them to, we've got to have funding for that. The Community Foundation helps us to be able to do that."

The foundation has also developed long-term relationships with many of its grant recipients. Operation Love, a social services organization that has operated for four decades in Madison County, has received several different types of funding from MCCF, according to executive director Andrea Baker.

"In the past, we have received much-needed repair and improvements of our facility," Baker said. "We received general operating money last year, and we have been the beneficiaries of some funding from the (foundation's) Women in Philanthropy grants for several years, which goes directly back to women and children in our community who are struggling to make ends meet."

Baker said the foundation has an established track record of involvement in the community, which is important for organizations like hers which depend on longer-term funding sources.

Davis said most of the money raised in the year-long campaign will be earmarked for the foundation's Impact Madison fund, a general fund from which discretionary grants are administered. That gives the foundation flexibility to respond quickly to unexpected needs and requests which may arise, he said.

"We don't know what the next urgent need is going to be and when that will emerge," he said. "Needs are always evolving and changing, and new opportunities are always coming out, too."

Davis and others said they hope the campaign will be a step away from providing what they called "Band-aid solutions" and toward more projects focused on addressing root causes of food insecurity and other issues.

"I think success would show eventually that our grant requests would lower as we're able to fix those problems," said Koty McDole, board chair for the Madison County Community Foundation. "Hopefully we can stop doing Band-aids and really get to some real issues. The Lilly Endowment money will definitely help us with that."

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